Location is everything, and whilst the Edinburgh Canal Centre in Ratho looked after the stretch of the Union Canal up to the Almond (Lin’s Mill) aqueduct, and the Linlithgow Union Canal Society looked after the stretch around Linlithgow, the stretch between these two was sadly neglected.
Some of the founding members of the Society were based in and around Broxburn, which had a natural harbour beside its main street (at Port Buchan), with interesting journeys to either side.
The B.U.C.H.A.N. Society emerged in Broxburn in 1994 from a small group of like-minded canal enthusiasts. It was decided at their 1999 AGM to extend the area covered by the society, and to change its name.
The new "Bridge 19-40 Union Canal Society" was to operate between Bridge 19 (the first bridge in West Lothian) and Bridge 40 at Philpstoun.
Roseann was the Society’s only boat until 2006, then in May that year she started to leak. Investigation showed that her metal base was showing the signs of her age and several small holes had appeared. She was put out of the water on her trailer whilst society members discussed what to do with her. She was the Society's first boat and no one wanted to part with her but we couldn't afford the cost of repairing her.
After exploring lots of blind alleys, we contacted BAE Systems in Govan and they agreed to repair Roseann. However, when they saw her, they decided to build us a new boat! This they did to the same measurements as the old Roseann so that her canopy would still fit. We collected the new Roseann in September 2007.
We obtained Bluebell in a dilapidated state. She had been sunk and vandalised and her engine had seized. Founding members of the Society have spent many hours lovingly restoring her from a vandalised and neglected hull to the smart boat she is today, suitable for our public boat trips and charters.
The boat we now call Bluebell started life back in the 1970s in England. She was commissioned around 1977 by Claire Hanmer, founder of the Peter Le Marchant Trust which she set up in memory of her brother. Named ‘Minuet’, she was built by a company in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, and was the Trust’s second boat, launched in 1978, their second year of running. She originally sported livery of a navy-blue hull and scarlet upperworks, with a lift in the cratch which allowed wheelchair access. She served the Trust for around a year.
Rev. P. Hugh R. Mackay, Chaplain to the Order of St John in Scotland, was part of the embryonic Seagull Trust, formed in November 1978. He invited Clare to assist with public relations around the launch of the Seagull Trust, and she gladly obliged. Around that time the Peter Le Marchant Trust had decided to utilise wide-beam narrrowboats, as these better suited their requirements, and ‘Minuet’ was purchased from the by the fledgling Seagull Trust with the assistance of funds from the Order.
In honour of this ‘Minuet’ was 1979 was renamed ‘St John Crusader’ by the Duke of Hamilton, Prior of the Order of St John at a ceremony at Seagull Trust's site at Calder Crescent, Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. A berth was provided courtesy of Ronnie Rusack MBE, then landlord of the Bridge Inn at Ratho. She was the very first Seagull Trust boat.
‘St John Crusader’ was used by the Seagull Trust until 1996, and was once again replaced by a wide-beam narrowboat, the ‘St John Crusader II’. Seagull Trust by this time they had expanded from one base in Ratho to bases at Ratho, Falkirk, Kirkintilloch and Inverness, with more custom-built boats.
‘St John Crusader’ thereafter changed hands, and was sold for the nominal sum of £500 to a community group in Wester Hailes to be operated as a community boat. She was renamed the ‘Calder Crusader’ and refitted for the community group’s purposes by the Army. Sadly, however, they were unable to maintain her, and she was left unloved for several years, during which time she was vandalised and sunk several times.
In 2004 the Wester Hailes group agreed that the boat should be made available to a group who would appreciate and restore her. In April 2004 the Bridge 19-40 Union Canal Society acquired her for a nominal sum and renamed her ‘Bluebell’.
‘Bluebell’ was restored over a period three years by dedicated volunteers from the Bridge 19-40 Union Canal Society, and in 2007 she was brought into service as our trip boat, serving faithfully in this capacity since.
Santa Boat Trips 2019
7 & 8 December
Weather permitting, our narrowboat Bluebell can be chartered throughout the year for private parties of up to 12 people. Driver and crew included.
Sunday Boat Trips
recommence in April 2020
0779 557 3927